Project 3: Surface and Depth – Research Point

Research point
Read the reviews by Campany and Colberg and, if you haven’t already done so, use them
to begin the contextual section of your learning log. Try to pick out the key points made
by each writer. Write about 300 words.

If you wish, you could add a screengrab of an image from Ruff’s jpeg series, and one or
two of your own compressed jpegs (taken on auto mode of course!). You can achieve
the effect quite easily by re-sizing a photograph to say, 180 x 270 pixels, and saving at
‘zero quality’ compression. If you use Photoshop’s ‘save for web’ you can see the effect
immediately without having to save, close and reopen the file.

Campany and Colberg both appraise Thomas Ruff’s work ‘jpegs’ in different ways and come to differing conclusions.

Colberg’s article starts with the public perception of Ruffs work as creative and inventive. However, he comments that Ruffs work could be considered by some not to be photography in the orthodox sense. Though he quickly avoids this potentially dry debate. He speaks of Ruff’s experiments with internet images of the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack, and how he saw a great deal of beauty and visual aesthetic in these pixilated images. The way Ruff’s images were presented also made a difference, as Colberg clearly preferred to view them in book form and commented that the oversized exhibition images at the Zwimer gallery were overly showy. Colberg appreciate the beauty of the images in the book, but felt that the narrative wasn’t clear even with the associated text.

Campany’s view of Ruff’s work was that although beautiful and clever it could appear cold and dispassionate. He comments that this fails to elicit a universal concord, and Ruff’s images appeal to no one and everyone at the same time. Campany remarks that Ruff’s found image photographic art have its roots in Dada, Cubism and Surrealism. Campany poses a lot of questions, but no real answers and attempts I think to provoke the reader to think deeper.  The flow of the presentation is important to Ruff, and though his images represent unpredictability they are designed to be presented in series. Camapny believes that the power of Ruff’s jpeg images is rooted in multiple layers of archived material. Ruff is trying to use pixels like film photographers used grain to elicit a sense of urgency, realism and authenticity to his jpeg images. But Campany rightly comments that pixels produce a mechanical repetitiveness compared to the unpredictable analogue properties of producing grain in film.

Both articles helped me understand Ruff’s work a bit better. Viewing multiple sources is defiantly helpful in gaining a more balanced view.

Below is Thomas Ruff’s image ‘jpeg ny02‘ followed by two of my attempts at Ruff like images.


Thomas Ruff: jpeg ny02




Crowd Texture



Thomas Ruff | jpeg ny02 | the met (2000) Available at: (Accessed: 29 January 2017).

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